CURRENT PROJECT

DINOSAUR WORLD LIVE V.2

Trailer and images of the original set of puppets for Dinosaur World live. 

For the past year, I have been part of the team making the second version of the Dinosaur World Live puppets for the international tour. My role on the show has been pattern cutting and carving plastazote, cladding machanisms, and an array of finishes including scrimming fabric and fur. 

The team consists of :

Co-studio heads – Max Humphries and Cheryl ‘Chuck’ Brown

Senior Puppet Maker – Charlie Findlay
Senior Puppet Technician & Consultant – Em Cooper

Makers –

Em Spoor
Suzanne Law
Chesley Lee
Arianna Mengarelli
Kira- Rose Kemp
Tina Napaat Chinweerpunt Minh Hanh

Painter – Maya Kazmarski

Workshop Dog – Spud 

We are currently in the final push of many of the puppets, below are some progress photos of our 3 largest puppets! With more photos coming soon!

Titus The T-Rex

Brutus the Triceratop

Juliet the Segnosaurus

Maintenance

While we are building the second set of Dinosaur puppets, the first set, (which was made in 2016) has been returning to the workshop for regular maintenance.

Recently baby Beatrice the triceratops was damaged in a truck pack. Her head fan was cracked, so I reinforced it and gave her a M.O.T, with her neck rings replaced, new canvas in her neck, and a full repaint and glaze.

The first image shows her before the repaint.

A new musical version of the classic novel directed by Michael Fentiman, with puppetry direction by Toby Olie. I worked again with Max Humphries and Cheryl ‘Chuck’ Brown on an Aslan puppet, a cat and multiple evil creature heads.

I was brought in towards the end of the project to assist with the fabrication elements. Getting Aslan’s Plastazote body ready for painting by scrimming (a method in which the Plastazote is covered in fabric and primed) and carving the cat’s body and legs.

I recently completed maintenance and structural reinforcements on the Aslan puppet, as well as a repaint of his gold detailing when the show changed theatres and went on tour.

RAT LAB

RATlab is an educational show aimed at key stage 2 students to get them interested in engineering. In the performance, you get a glimpse into the hip surgery of Ronnie, a rugby star, learn about bones and how bodies move and how engineers are finding new ways to help people using technology. The difference is that the lab is run by rats, the bone specialist doctor is a dog, and Ronnie is a pig.

RATLab was made possible with funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering, the University of Bath, the government’s Culture Recovery Fund and the Arts Council Emergency Response Fund.

I worked alongside Chris Pirie and was tasked with fabricating our dog doctor and adding the finishing touches to Ronnies surgery set up, the rat masks, and other bits and pieces needed to bring the show to life.

AMÉLIE

This puppet was a remake of a preexisting Dik Downey puppet made for the musical version of ‘Amelie.’ Dik originally made the puppet for the 2019 open at the Watermill Theatre, directed by Michael Fentiman.
The puppet is used in a scene where Amelie is shown as a child. She is a simple build made to sit or stand while being operated by one person. In the play, her heart also glows from an LED in her chest.The first Amelie child puppet was made to resemble the lead actress at the time, who is white with straight hair. However, with a swing cast being introduced, a second puppet was required that resembled the new Amelie actress, a person of colour with curls. 

I worked with Izzy Bristow at the beginning of this project to carve the body and limbs out of Plastazote, assemble her pipe and laser-cut joint mechanisms, carve her hands out of wood and create paint samples to match her skin tone. We worked off measurements and photographs of the original puppet build to match the style of the show.

DRAGONS AND MYTHICAL BEASTS LIVE

In my last few months at University, I completed work experience on ‘Dragons and Mythical Beasts’ with Max Humphries, Cheryl ‘Chuck’ Brown, and Izzy Bristow. Working on Puppet Construction and Fabrication in both Bristol and Farnham. During my time with them, I was trained in Pattern Cutting, Scrimming and a mixture of finishes.

On graduating Uni, I was asked to stay on until the end of the project as a trainee puppet maker.

The Indrik

When I joined the ‘Dragons and Mythical Beast’ team, the carving of the Indrik was already complete. I was part of the team that prep the Indrik for painting and workshopped the paint finish and embellishments needed to bring the Indrik to life.
The Indrik was the final and tallest puppet of the show and needed to be a showstopper.I prepped and covered hundred of twigs with fabric before attaching them to the body. Then created texture to create the tree bark effect before prepping, painting and glazing under the supervision of Cheryl ‘Chuck’ Brown, the lead fabricator for the show.  I then attended paint calls during rehearsals in London to add the finishing touches, such as his top coating of leaves.

Haldor the stone troll

‘Haldor the Stone Troll’ is designed to be puppeteered by three people, one inside the body, wearing the legs and controlling the head, and one on each arm. In the video you can see Izzy Bristow harnessed inside of the Stone Troll body doing a test run of the legs to see if more coverage was needed to conceal the puppeteer.

Haldor was my first stint into large-scale pattern cutting and assembly, with his entire body and stone lumps being patterned from a sculpture. 

My first job as in intern working with Izzy Bristow in Bristol’s Puppet Place was assembling the hundreds of A4 prints to create the paper pattern pieces.

I worked on Haldor from start to finish, assembling his patterns, creating formers for his body and attaching his shell to the mechanisms. Then carving and texturing his body, prepping for paint, and then finally painting his body during paint calls.

maintenance

Being in the Nicoll workshop for ‘Dinosaur World Live’ means that I have also been part of the maintenance team for the dragons and mythical beast puppets. On tour they have a technician who maintains the puppets, but when their problems are too difficult to fix on the road or if they need aesthetic touch-ups, they come back to the workshop. 

Which means I have had the chance to work on all the puppets in the show. Including the ones I didn’t have a hand in making, such as Shimmer the Unicorn and Juno the Dragon.

A common repair is stripping the mechanisms of their formers and Plastazote skin to access and fix the internal mechanisms and then reattaching the parts and blending together the seams. This was recently done on Shimmer the Unicorn’s back legs when the internal mechanism warped over prolonged use.

And sometimes accidents happen. Just before the 2022 winter tour, the Tooth Fairy’s right hand was damaged, with several of her fingers breaking off. I made a new hand for her to mirror her existing hand out of carved plywood which I then colour matched and painted.

SOMETHING'S FISHY...

Turbulent weather, non-stop rain and flash floods, not to mention Storm Karen, lead to a changed Earth, no longer belonging to the humans but the Fish!

Watch the fishies get accustomed to their new life, exploring the empty homes of the humans and making Earth their own, maybe picking up a few of our habits on the way. Filmed on mobile phones and made with whatever materials available to us at the time, ‘Something’s Fishy…’ is an exploration into puppetry using traditional and new techniques to tell our story. All parts of the film were filmed separately with the makers in Wales, England and even the Netherlands. Everything was completed over ten weeks in complete Covid lockdown with no in-person communication.

 Creative director and group leader – Em Spoor

Year 2 Students – Ania Levy, Sacha Van Sutphen, and Lizzie Doody 

Project Designed and led for RWCMD by Lucy Hall

Puppetry Tutors – Jess Jones, Dik Downey, and Olivia Racionzer

During the making part of the project,  I made weekly vlogs to help myself learn how to edit on Abobe Premiere Pro. It documents my process and experience with making a puppet film while working in complete isolation in my childhood bedroom on top of dealing with a worldwide pandemic. The footage spans three weeks and shows a personal look into my process and contribution to the final film. 

You can also check out the full sketchbook I completed during the research, design and make processes by clicking the link below to view my digital sketchbook. 

Plan and storyboard for a Marionette Whale Shark along with the final puppet made entirely from cardboard, with a carved body and strips of corrugated cardboard and watercolour paint to finish.

Finished aluminium fish made to be puppeteered both in and out of the water
Underwater camera test and the proposal
2D paper "Office Fish" and News Reporter, a type of puppetry that lended itself perfectly to filming
Polymer clay and breadcrumb fish finger as no fish film is complete without one

GLUTZ

©2019 Richard Finkelstein

Young music lover Eva follows a noisy cat into Prague’s House of Glutz and discovers a collection of unusual sculptures and their owner, the grumpy elderly Count Glutz. Eva discovers that the statues react to music and come to life to dance, sing and fly. After finding out that Glutz and the statues are about to lose their home to an evil developer, Eva decided to help. But will she stop Cigar and his suit-wearing goons from bulldozing the house and building a shopping mall? Can Eva and the statues find a way to raise the money needed to save the House of Glutz?


A collaboration between the students of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Bringing together designers, stage managers, actors and jazz musicians with the guidance of directors and experienced puppeteers.


Performed as part of the 2019 Prague Quadrennial in Jan Palach Square and later developed to perform in Cardiff at the Anthony Hopkins Building, where schools were invited to watch the show with tickets also available to the public.

A video taken by an audience member at one of our Cardiff performances, showing scenes from throughout the show. 

A short video made by the college to promote the show. 

©2019 Kirsten Mcternan

My role during the making process of Glutz was to create three pigeons that appear at the beginning of the show pecking around the audience and attacking the ‘Tour Guide’ as she leads the audience through the show.

 As the script put very bluntly they also had to be “shitting pigoens” and be able to poop on people on request.

I created one that rolled on the floor through the use of a salvaged scooter wheel and two that flew with moving wing mechanisms. 

The floor pigeons released a pre-made ‘Ready Brek™’ mixture through the puppeteers squeezing a bottle at the top of a hollow handle made from a pipe leading to the pigeons behind. While the flying pigeons used an internal mechanism, not unlike a pinball machine with a line attached to the wing mech so when the wings were pulled tight to the body the string pulled tight and released a handful of corn kernels – as the idea of releasing ‘Ready Brek™’ poop onto unexpecting audience members was quickly shut down.

Sketchbook and production photos of the pigeon puppets –  the wheeled along ‘floor pigeons’ and the ‘sky pigeons’ with their wing mechanism.

I also had the chance to design the arm mechanism for the main villain ‘Cigar.’ I used a simple pipe and fabric mech as the basis and added on additional parts to allow the wrist to be able to twist the full 180 degrees, and to allow the puppeteers to control the movement from behind. Cigar ended up being puppeteered by 2 people, with one wearing his legs and controlling the head and one arm, and the other controlling his dominant hand. I ended up on his right hand and added an additional trick to him by placing a magnet into the palm of his hand to allow him to hold things during the show.

©2019 Kirsten Mcternan